Instructional Design

“Instructional Design is the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities.” Source:

Origins of Instructional Design

BF Skinner holding a pidgeonLike many of our aging industrial systems and methodologies, instructional design was born out of war. WWII to be precise. The U.S. military needed to train large groups to perform various tasks from combat to navigation to various technical skills. They turned, in part, to this man, B.F. Skinner and his theories of radical behaviorism and operant conditioning. Tasks were broken down into subtasks, and each subtask treated as a separate learning goal. This proved, at the time, to be an efficient and effective system for training large groups quickly. The performance of the learner was easily assessed because of the systematic use of learning goals.

B.F. Skinner later went on to create the Teaching Machine in the 1950’s.

Skinner’s systematic approach to instructional design, although now thought of as rigid and industrial in it’s execution, did give us the basic structured approach that instructional design still touches on today.

That said, Skinner also invented “the Air Crib”, a climate controlled box for his daughter which encouraged a lot of negative connections between his work and some of his more “radical” ideas. A great article on B.F. Skinner can be read at Hack Education, an excellent blog on the history of the future of ed-tech.

Other notable contributions along the way included Benjamin Bloom’s Blooms Taxonomy, Robert Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction, John Keller’s ARCS model and the ADDIE model. Let’s take a closer look at how some of these contributions are used today in a digital world.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • Blooms Taxonomy


  • Helps define desired student competencies based on cognitive domain.
  • Select verbs for learning outcomes based on domain
  • Design learning activities and assessments that allow students to demonstrate competency.


Gagne’s 9 Events




  • Instructional Design model focused on maintaining motivation throughout the teaching and learning process.
  • Acts more as guidelines than a template or rigid model.

ARCS Model details explained here.



  • Focus is on a staged approach to Instructional Design.
  • Testing and constant evaluation is a major part of the process.
  • Revisions are always based on the results of an evaluation stage.

More details on the ADDIE Model here.

Information Design

Information design is the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters efficient and effective understanding of it. The term has come to be used specifically for graphic design for displaying information effectively, rather than just attractively or for artistic expression. Information design is closely related to the field of data visualization and is often taught as part of graphic design courses[1]

Information design is explanation design. It explains facts of the world and leads to knowledge and informed action. [2]

  2. Per Mollerup, Data Design: Visualising quantities, locations, connections, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015

Information Architecture

Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.[1] Typically, it involves a model or concept of information that is used and applied to activities which require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development.

Information architecture is considered to have been founded by Richard Saul Wurman.[2] Today there is a growing network of active IA specialists who constitute the Information Architecture Institute.[3]


  1. "What is IA?" (PDF). Information Architecture Institute.
  2. "Richard Saul Wurman awarded for Lifetime Achievement". Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  3. "Join the IA Network". Information Architecture Institute.


Read – Information Architecture 101: Techniques and Best Practices


SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Read: SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle